“Hello and welcome to our biobank! How can I help you today?”
“I’d like 20 aliquots of blood from Caucasian males aged 30-40 years old who were exposed to asbestos.”
“Coming right up! Would you like a list of blood types with that?”
Human biobanks are like libraries but instead of humanity’s collection of literature, they contain samples from humanity itself. Like something out of a sci-fi movie, you can now go online and order any number of biospecimens including blood, plasma, saliva, marrow, urine, amniotic fluid, purified DNA, stem cells and cerebrospinal fluid. Each sample is maintained and screened for common and particular features and contaminants. All samples are acquired after informed consent has been obtained from donors according to the Declaration of Helsinki (the cornerstone document on human research ethics).Continue Reading...
When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I watched Stephen Hawking beat Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and an android in a game of poker.
I’m not kidding, I really did!
Of course it was on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The android, Data, in an attempt to better understand the various facets of humanity, plays poker with three of the greatest minds in history on a holodeck: Hawking, Newton and Einstein.
After the episode was over, I turned to my mom (an accomplished scientist) and asked her why Stephen Hawking used a robot voice to speak. She went on to tell me what she knew about him, particularly about his ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and about how Hawking has survived far longer than most people with ALS do.
Two decades later, Hawking is still alive, has so many letters after his name that it looks like a math equation and has published academic papers in journals as recently as 2016.Continue Reading...